Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Interactive Mao Kun Map


The Mao Kun Map is the earliest Chinese map to accurately map Southern Asia, Persia, Arabia and East Africa. The map was first published in the 17th century in the military treatise Wubei Zhi. The introduction to the map in Wubei Zhi suggests that the Mao Kun charts are based on documents from the expeditions of Zheng He. The Mao Kun Map is also sometimes known as Zheng He's Navigation Map.

The map is a long strip map charting the sea route from the Ming capital in Nanjing to the East Coast of Africa (the map is arranged from right to left, starting from Nanjing and finishing in Hormuz.) You can follow the whole route in close detail on the Interactive Zheng He Sailing Map. This interactive version of the map was created by Professor Anthony Barbieri-Low of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The interactive map includes translations of 100 of the Chinese place-names on the map. If you hover over these place-names (highlighted in red on the map) you can read the English translation. If you click on a highlighted place-name you can view the selected location on Google Maps. All these translated and mapped locations are also available from a drop-down menu, which provides a quick way to find a location on the map. A small inset map runs along the top of the map to show where you are currently looking on the huge strip map.

The dotted lines on the map are sailing routes. The Chinese text along these routes provide sailing instructions, including compass points and distances. The sailing instructions are more detailed in Chinese waters. The map itself is also more accurate in Chinese territory and is less complete the further west it goes.
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